What causes the base of the stems of tomato seedlings to wither (shrivel up)? I've noticed this happen occasionally. The remainder of the plant is fine until it dies from being separated from the ground. It seems like it happens more often when there's less light, but I could be imagining that. This affects at least seedlings that are still on their first or second leaves. I haven't seen it affect anything but seedlings.

This didn't used to happen. So, I'm thinking it might be a pathogen, or something to do with the soil.

1 Answer 1


Sounds like damping off disease, caused by various fungal pathogens. It's much more common with seeds planted indoors rather than outdoors, and where seeds are thickly planted, without good airflow around them. If you think it's that, it's very important you thoroughly clean all seed trays, pots and utensils you may previously have used when planting seeds, preferably sterilising everything with something like a solution of Jeyes fluid before you reuse the equipment. Always use fresh planting medium, sow thinly, don't overwater, keep the humidity down or as low as possible, and ensure there is some airflow or gentle movement of air where the seedlings are housed. A drench with fungicide on the compost prior to planting the seeds can help, but it depends whether you have any appropriate fungicides available where you are for such a use.

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    I think you are right about it being damping off. Thanks! :) Neem oil might work, if I can get some, depending on which pathogens are at work. Dryer soil and more light, too, I'm sure. Maybe I can take advantage of this and breed damping off resistance into my plants. I'm sure plants can adapt throughout plant generations like bacteria to antibiotics. Some tomatoes are already resistant. Any idea which varieties are resistant to damping off? I wonder if market wonder and Galapagos island tomatoes are. I just planted some. They're supposed to be disease resistant, anyhow. Commented Dec 13, 2014 at 18:05
  • I used glass jars for my first plants that weren't affected (and other stuff for everything else). Maybe the light shining on the soil and through to the stems helped. Commented Dec 13, 2014 at 18:20
  • @Shule - most disease resistant plants aren't created to resist damping off, but other fungal infections which may occur as the plant matures. And fungal spores, like, as they say, the poor, are always with us... consider the fact you take in at least 40 different spores every time you take a breath, they're everywhere!
    – Bamboo
    Commented Dec 14, 2014 at 11:43
  • I found some potential cures for whatever was causing damping off. 1. I put a couple lamps with CFLs around the plants. 2. For cuttings, after planting and watering (use as little water as you can manage at first), put some dry dirt on top of the watered dirt. 3. Use baked soil (to sterilize it). Anyway, I haven't had problems in a while. Commented Jan 15, 2015 at 22:58

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